Thursday, July 23, 2015

Understanding the Energy in the Room; Part 1

"I'm only happy when I'm on stage. I just feed off the energy of the audience. That's what I'm all   about- people and laughter." Larry David

Among the many hats a speaker wears is one that reads “Energy Manager.” We know, as do the planners who hire us, that the attendees at a program experience one of two energy flow states. At just about any moment, they're either being energized or they are being drained of their liveliness.


Whether or not the participants remain alert and interested depends on many things, not the least of which is how we understand and direct the flow of their energy, particularly that energy which flows between the audience and ourselves up on the platform. When we say we “connect” with our audience, we are referring to the energy stream flowing between them and us. The quality of this connection with the speaker determines the level of our own success, because the state these attendees find themselves in often determines the level of success the meeting achieves. When the audience is charged by our presence and the attention is directed toward us, we are where we want to be and they are where we want them! This is what is meant by “holding the audience’s attention.”

Understanding the Energy in a Room
The energy level of the audience defines the emotional state of the group in the same way lighting sets the tone in a theater production, where changing lights indicate a shift in mood. In the theater, the illumination fills in the holes and occupies the spaces between characters, events and sets. During a speech in front of an audience, which consists of sets of human relationships (between us and the audience, among the audience members themselves, and between the audience members and the people that are on their minds), the energy illuminates the dynamics of the group. Energy is what fills in the psychic space linking the people who are present in the room.
So it stands to reason that the way we orchestrate the energy in a room essentially has the effect of working like a thermostat, controlling the emotional climate among the attendees. We wouldn’t let the room get too hot or too cold because we need to keep the participants alert and interested in order to make the meeting successful from the point of view of the meeting organizer. Our platform poise serves a purpose similar to that of a thermostat. We are managing many different relationships and people to make a program successful. In essence, we are directing the audience without them knowing it.

The Value of “Authenticity”                                                                                                   The proficiency in developing the ability to “hold the audience” comes from developing that ubiquitous presenters’   buzzword: authenticity. Common wisdom at workshops, conventions and business meetings holds that if you are authentic, the audience will be interested in you. Indeed, authenticity is like a dose of caffeine for the attention span. Being authentic on the platform has the effect of holding the audience’s attention as surely as a magician’s hands do as he weaves the set-up story before the trick. With a magician as with a speaker, we use laser-like intensity to try and find something we know we won’t see. We don’t see how it’s done; yet we enjoy it anyway.

The 3 Components of  Platform Authenticity                                                               Therefore, it makes sense that many a hard-earned speaker dollar is spent on becoming authentic. But what exactly are we buying? After all, being “authentic” means being true to one's own personality, spirit or character. Is that something we need to purchase? Isn’t our source of genuineness always within us? Developing authenticity is a matter of understanding what makes us real on the platform. We can break authenticity down into three elements. We can then nurture the three elements that help make us real, the three fundamental aspects of authenticity that make us attractive to the audience: vulnerability, presence and spontaneity.                                                                                                         

“Understanding the Energy of Attraction, Part 2: The 3 Essentials of Attraction” will be our next months post.

Izzy Gesell (Izzy's website) is an organizational alchemist who helps individuals and organizations transform their thinking from commonplace to extraordinary. Through his keynotes, trainings, coaching and facilitated sessions, Izzy offers imaginative, intuitive and immediately useful insights and programs. He is skilled at delivering meaningful material in a way that makes participants enjoy their time with him.

Izzy was one of the first to use Improv Theater concepts as tools for personal and organizational learning. He is the author of Playing Along: Group Learning Activities Borrowed From Improvisation Theater, a co-author of Cancer & the Healing Power of Play, a co-author of Humor Me: America’s Funniest Humorists on the Power of Laughter, and a contributor of a chapter on Improvisation as a facilitation tool in the IAF Group Facilitators Handbook. "His video course  on Applied Improv for Leadership" for Lynda.com was their first  course shot before a live audience. A second Lynda.com course, "Humor in the Workplace" was recently rele


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